Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Magnificent Day for a New Magnet

Wow! We have been waiting for this day for a long time at GRMC. Our new magnetic resonance imager (MRI) arrived yesterday! As they say, a picture is often worth a 1,000 words. And given my blog posts sometimes get a little long, how about a few pictures instead?

This new unit will be awesome for our patients.

Special thanks to all the people making this happen: especially our imaging, facilities, and communication staff; Ball Construction and all their subcontractors; the good folks at Hitachi; and of course all the donors who helped raise over $320,000!

Thank you all to the power of 1.5 Tesla!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

'Twas the night before, the night before Christmas

It's December 23 and things are beginning to quiet down around the medical center. I just completed a walk through. Just like any other day, doctors and nurses are working to get people well enough to go home. Just before Christmas, however, this effort is even more important. Hospitals are, of course, not the place you ever want to be, especially on the big holiday.
There were a couple of babies up in OB; one due on Christmas apparently decided having a birthday on Christmas may not be fun and so decided today was the day! Lots of smiles all around from Mom, Dad, and it looked like very proud grandparents. Surgery was quiet, the ICU and inpatient floors are also a little less busy... I dare say even the ER was "relaxed." (We never use the 'quiet' word in the ER because as soon as you do, it gets crazy busy!)
Of course, hospitals never close! Every day of every year, we're here, ready for whatever life throws at people. Dedicated team members working for hospitals take their turn working when most folks are home with their families on each and every holiday. It is mostly the direct caregivers and those that support the care here on the holidays. It's our nurses and patient techs, the doctors, the folks in dietary, lab, radiology, surgery, respiratory therapy, admitting, and those that keep the place clean and the building functioning properly. These are the committed men and women who make a difference in the lives of those unfortunate to need the care of a hospital on these special days. We try our best to recognize this is a necessary sacrifice; so we have a holiday meal for everyone working at GRMC on Christmas. We pay folks a little more and we say, "Thanks!"
Indeed, thank you to each of the very special people that come in to work the holidays so the community may be well served no matter what day it happens to be when illness or injury strikes.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

12 Great Things That Happened at GRMC...

Happy Holidays from Grinnell Regional Medical Center.

If you are unable to view this video,
please visit

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Pretty Good Company…

Grinnell Regional Medical Center was recently named one of the nation’s top hospitals according to The Leapfrog Group. In fact, GRMC is only one of five rural hospitals around the country to achieve The Leapfrog Group’s top rural hospital status for 2010.

Traveling with me to attend the annual meeting of The Leapfrog Group was Susan Witt, chair of the GRMC board of directors, and Dr. Laura VanCleve, president of the GRMC medical staff. After receiving the award on behalf of GRMC, we reflected on this extraordinary accomplishment.

First and foremost, we are all extremely proud of the women and men who achieved this recognition for GRMC. Led by Suzanne Cooner, the entire GRMC team is committed to the providing patient services that are of high quality, focused on patient safety, and at the lowest cost possible.

We also noted that GRMC was named with some very impressive company. Other hospitals recognized as “top hospitals” by The Leapfrog Group include some of the icons of healthcare institutions in our country, such as all three Mayo Clinic Hospitals in Minnesota, Florida, and Arizona; 16 Kaiser Permanente Hospitals and the Stanford Hospitals and Clinics in California; Beth Israel and the Brigham and Women’s Hospitals in Boston; the University of Michigan Health System; Sentara in Virginia; and Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., just to name a few!

Finally, we were impressed with the focus on quality care and patient safety. This is the hallmark of The Leapfrog Group. One of the “Founding Frogs” is Lucian Leape, MD, an internationally recognized patient safety guru and Harvard professor. Leapfrog’s expert panel includes Peter Pronovost, MD, PhD, critical care physician and professor at Johns Hopkins; David Bates, MD, a practicing internist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard professor; John Brinkmeyer, MD, a surgeon with the University of Michigan Medical School; and Charles Denham, MD, founder of the Texas Medical Institute of Technology and patient safety expert. There is little doubt these folks are some of the best minds focused on improving healthcare in hospitals today.

The educational sessions we attended were geared 100 percent toward patient safety and improved quality. They made it clear that although much has been accomplished over the first ten years of The Leapfrog Group in encouraging standard setting and transparency, there is still much to do. They pledged that each year, their standards would become more widespread and demanding as they push for even greater performance for healthcare in our country.

This recognition is such a team effort. Every member of the staff must be giving their best to provide the level of care and safety that this kind of recognition merits. Of course, medical and nursing staff fit that bill most openly, but it includes everyone who supports them, too. At GRMC, we truly strive for a culture of quality and safety and this recognition acknowledges everyone’s hard work to make it a reality.

You can learn more about The Leapfrog Group at their website.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Taking the leap was worth the effort!

As noted in an earlier blog, GRMC was recognized by the Leapfrog Group as one of their 2010 Top Hospitals this week in Washington, D.C. Leapfrog is a coalition of large purchasers of healthcare and is celebrating ten years since their “Founding Frogs” penned the idea on the back of a napkin about an effort to improve quality, patient safety, and efficiency in American healthcare. Some of the companies involved in this mission include General Electric, General Motors, Boeing, IBM, and FedEx.

We met Rebecca Dunk, senior manager, Health and Welfare Benefits for Cedar Rapids based AEGON, who currently serves on Leapfrog’s board of directors. She noted the basic mission of Leapfrog is to have employers leverage their purchasing power to demand public transparency from hospitals. Only then will people be able to compare hospitals on safety, quality, and cost and then select the one that is best for their families. She is responsible for the 15,000 employees nationally who work for AEGON and simply wants the best quality and lowest cost for these employees.

I certainly have been aware of Leapfrog over the past decade, but only recently was compelled to have GRMC fill out their hospital survey after hearing healthcare governance guru Jamie Orlikoff speak about the value of their survey in the board room. Jamie also serves on the Virginia Mason Medical Center board in Seattle, Wash. He argues the survey helps the board of his hospital by tracking the performance to the Leapfrog standards and benchmarks, and then gives them opportunity to make improvements. Only several days after we received the results of our survey and presented the information to our board for the first time were we informed by Leapfrog we attained the top decile ranking for their rural hospital survey. This is only the second year Leapfrog has recognized Top Rural Hospitals and this year there were five hospitals from around the country that attained the top one percent rating.

I am sure glad we took the “leap” and filled out their survey. Although pleased about our top 1 percent rating, the survey process gives us opportunities to make further improvements and our team at GRMC already is making efforts for additional improvements.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

GRMC Named One of Nation's Leading Hospitals

I'm getting ready to fly back to Iowa this afternoon from Washington, D.C. I've been here for the annual meeting of The Leapfrog Group where Susan Witt, our GRMC board chair, Dr. Laura VanCleve, the GRMC medical staff president, and myself, represented GRMC today as it was named one of the top five rural hospitals in the nation. I have a lot more to share about this event and the award itself. In the meantime, here's a link to the GRMC website to learn more.

This award is a testament to all GRMC staff, medical staff, and volunteers, and the incredible attention to patient safety and quality of care they provide. More to come...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Yellow Cars Make Me Thankful!

I saw a yellow Volkswagen yesterday and thought about something I was grateful that case it was my wonderful children!

At the Iowa Hospital Association's annual meeting in October, Administrators Suzanne Cooner and Doris Rindels attended a session where the speaker encouraged them to always pause for a moment and think about something they were grateful for when they see a yellow car. They mentioned this to the GRMC administrative team during a follow-up meeting and ever since, I have been on the lookout for yellow! It is amazing how many yellow vehicles you see when you start looking for them.

It also reminded me about our stress management program called HeartMath. (You can go back to other posts I've written about HeartMath here.)

Quick coherence has three simple steps: 1) bring your attention to your heart, 2) breathe deeply, and 3) think about something that brings you a feeling of deep appreciation. Everytime I practice HeartMath, I also get to think about things for which I am grateful. Throw a prayer in there with yellow cars and HeartMath and everyday I get to think about all the blessings in my life many, many times.

This week, we celebrate Thanksgiving. I enjoy this wonderful holiday devoted to giving thanks for the blessings in life. This year in addition to appreciating yellow cars, HeartMath, and prayer, I have also been blessed with good health and wonderful family and friends (including my new best friend, Angie).

I am also fortunate to have a great job surrounded by hundreds of caring people who make GRMC the special place it is today! We recently lost one of those extraordinary team members, Shirle Huth. What a joy it was to be around Shirle... she always went the extra mile for patients, her co-workers, and beloved family. We certainly will miss her warm smile, humorous perspective, and compassionate heart. I truly appreciated knowing her.

Working in healthcare is an awesome experience and responsibility. Everyday we get the pleasure of making a difference in the lives of others. It's not always easy but it is clearly meaningful work. I want to say a special thank you to all the men and women associated with Grinnell Regional for their daily commitment to our mission of service. It is important work. I also want to wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving and hope you take some time to celebrate the joy in life that comes from being grateful for your many blessings.

Watch for a yellow car and give it a try... I think you will like it!

Friday, November 12, 2010

An Open Letter of Thanks

To the Claude W. Ahrens Charitable Trust, Iowa Radiology, Jewel Kintzinger Day and Burt Day, Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Employees and Foundation, Grinnell Regional Auxiliary, Brownell Family Foundation, and Grinnell College:

I want to take this opportunity in a public way to thank you for your ongoing support of Grinnell Regional Medical Center.

To the Claude W. Ahrens Charitable Trust and Iowa Radiology, thank you for your successful challenge grant to the community for our MRI project. Donors from across the area met your $50,000 challenge that doubled the total amount for this project and has raised $100,000 toward the goal of $300,000.

Jewel and Burt, I want to thank you for remembering your brother, Dick Wendt, and celebrating Jeld-Wen with your gift to the MRI project.

Thanks to the employees of Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company and its foundation for your $20,000 gift toward the new MRI. Our organizations enjoy a great partnership that benefits Grinnell and the surrounding area.

Thank you to Grinnell College for issuing an additional matching challenge to the community to meet our $300,000 goal for the new MRI.

And, I cannot say thank you enough to the members of the Grinnell Regional Auxiliary for their hands-on support everyday and for their 2010 gift of $22,000 to the MRI campaign.

Remodeling is already underway within the radiology department to prepare the room and install the new MRI unit. Technology has advanced greatly since our current MRI was built. There are so many reasons why this upgrade is needed for patients, physicians, and the medical center.

Thank you to the Brownell Family Foundation and your $25,000 challenge to match new and additional donations to the 2010 annual fund drive. Gifts to the annual fund drive support GRMC everyday for equipment purchases, services, and programs.

On behalf of all of us at GRMC, thank you. When we work together in this way, everyone benefits. GRMC is truly proud to be a community hospital with this extraordinary level of support.

And, thanks to all of you who have contributed or plan to donate to GRMC this year. Every gift is needed and makes a difference, no matter the size of the donation.

Todd C. Linden
President and CEO
Grinnell Regional Medical Center

Friday, November 5, 2010

Reflecting on a Life Well-Lived

I recently attended the memorial service for Maynard Raffety. The church was standing room only and it seemed the whole community turned out to pay tribute to a great man. Maynard served on both the hospital board and our foundation board. In fact, he was on the search committee that brought me to Grinnell almost 18 years ago. I had the privilege of knowing Maynard from my first few moments in this community. He was the consummate board member. Wise, honest, caring, mission focused, and supportive are a few words that come to mind regarding his commitment to great governance at GRMC. Personally, he always made you feel special and you knew exactly how committed he was to making a difference in the world.

Dr. Stan Greenwald is Maynard's cousin and is currently serving on the GRMC board of directors. He provided a stirring eulogy at Maynard's service. The thing that really stood out for me in listening to Stan was "The Maynard Test." Stan and Maynard grew up together on neighboring farms and Maynard was the eldest of the kids from the two families as I understood it. "The Maynard Test" was simple: What would Maynard do in this situation? What would Maynard say in this situation? "The Maynard Test" clearly led you to do "the right thing."

Stan comforted the family, and especially the many grandchildren, by reminding them that although they would miss Maynard, he would live on in each of them through the wonderful example he was in the way he lived his life. He was truly an exemplary man in love of God, family, and community. Stan has all the same awesome traits Maynard was known for and I have been the beneficiary in both counts for their service on the hospital board.

When I went to see Maynard at the Mayflower Community a few days prior to his death, I was moved by how peaceful he was. We shared a few moments of memories (such as the time he flew me and a couple buddies to Phoenix to watch the Hawks play in a sweet 16 basketball tournament game - what an amazing flight halfway across the country! Because of the low ceiling that day, we were literally flying through the valley between the Rocky Mountains!) We talked about the common love we shared for the hospital and its mission to the community. He told me he was glad to have known me and complimented me for the leadership at GRMC. Even in his final days, he was focused on others. As I said goodbye to Maynard, I told him my life was blessed immensely by his friendship and that I was grateful for the opportunity to know him.

We will greatly miss Maynard; however there is no doubt his legacy of kindness, generosity, community spirit, hard work and wisdom will live on. GRMC is a better place because of Maynard and the work of countless and selfless leaders like him.

Friday, October 29, 2010

More of My Favorite Things

Recently, I spent an hour in our nutrition services department. I got a first-hand view of what it takes to keep our patients fed while following doctors' orders and doing our best to make the food tasty.

It is no secret. Food simply tastes better when we are not sick and when we can eat what we want, not what is prescribed. This team has its "plate full" when cooking for our patients, staff, and visitors.

I previously wrote about "The Big Three" last year. Patients use three important factors to evaluate their inpatient experience. How does the food taste? How clean is the place? And, did people treat me with care and respect? Often, patients are not able to judge the true clinical quality of their treatment. But the reality is all three of these areas involve something we judge everyday in our walk on this earth and that makes us experts in these areas. We transfer our judgments about overall quality using these three proxies.
Our nutrition services staff know they get judged at each and every meal on how their food tastes, if it is the right temperature, and if people have a choice in what they eat. It may not matter to the patient if the additional goal is for the meal to be healthy, meets the physician's requirements given the illness that brought them to our doors, or fits into the daily routine of our patients. Despite that rock and hard place, I am proud to report that our team gets plenty of compliments about their food.
"I can't believe it was 'hospital' food!"
"The parents' OB celebration meal was amazing."
"I loved having choices from the room service menu."
These are just a sample of the comments from our patient satisfaction surveys.
The nutrition services department also serves hundreds of meals everyday to our hospital team members and visitors in the cafeteria and Neon Cafe. This is no easy task given the variety of tastes and nutritional needs of our staff members.
We have been making a special effort to eat healthier lately. This is a real balancing act. Preparing food that is tasty and nutritious takes good culinary skills. My hats off to our team for their daily dedication to feed the crowd and keep them coming back for more! I am excited about the ideas from our nutrition services team to keep improving.
Thank you for your efforts!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

School Bus Tips Over – GRMC Kicks Into Action

Last week a school bus tipped over in Searsboro, 11 miles south of Grinnell, with 19 students and a bus driver on board. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured. That sort of call from emergency responders does get a hospital revved into its highest gear. The driver and one student were transported by ambulance to GRMC with minor injuries. Of course the ER was ready and easily cared for both patients.

We anticipated the other 18 students would also be coming to the hospital to get checked out and so the disaster alert was put out and we were ready with extra personnel, juice boxes, and space for parents and friends. We waited and no one came. We called the school and found out that most of the students were picked up at the scene by parents and taken to the Lynnville/Sully school before any officials from the school ever arrived. Another bus took the remaining students to the school.

In a conversation with the superintendent, it was decided rather than get the students stressed from getting back on a bus and coming to GRMC, we would bring GRMC to the children. I loaded up my Buick with our ER Physician, Dr. John Bambara; two nurses, Terri Kelling and Doris Rindels; and a social worker, Linda Romero, and off we went. Dr. Ryan Dahlby Albright generously volunteered on his day off to take charge of the ER while we were gone.

We set up a triage center in a gathering room near the main entrance and with the school’s assistance called all the parents asking for permission to evaluate each of their children. Each child, ranging in grades from kindergarten through high school, filed in and was thoroughly screened. Most were totally uninjured, while a few had minor bumps and scrapes. One child was referred back to the hospital for further evaluation.

I enjoyed talking to each of the children about their unexpected topsy-turvy ride that morning and leaned that they had just practiced their “bus escape” drill earlier that week. One little tike told me the big kids helped the little kids out the back door. He said, “we kind of slid down the open door…it was fun!” Kids are so resilient.

The superintendent was great to work with and thanked us over and over again for coming to the school. I was sure glad no one was seriously injured!

This event brought a slightly new twist to our slogan: “We are here for you when you need us”…in this case: “We are ‘there’ for you when you need us”!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

2010 Women's Health Focus & Baby Fair

GRMC and the GRMC Auxiliary hosted more than 400 attendees at the 2010 women's health focus and baby fair. Guests had the opportunity to visit educational booths, shop with local vendors, eat a fabulous buffet dinner, and enjoy a presentation by Colette Carlson.

Below are some photos from the event.

Guests were able to gather valuable information
and goodies from the educational booths.

Guests were able to start their holiday
shopping early at the MarketPlace.

The massage therapists from Postels Community Health Park relaxed
guests with paraffin hand treatments and chair massages.

Colette Carlson taught us to stress less, and laugh more. Above is
guest Leila Maring learning how to balance life's responsibilities.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

One of my favorite things

No, this is not a Julie Andrews musical about to begin (although I do love watching the Sound of Music every year) but rather a couple more “walkrounds” where I get to spend a few hours with GRMC team members as they show me what it takes to do their job. Recently, I got the chance to shadow employees in the pharmacy department.

The most impressive thing about watching our pharmacy team perform their jobs is the obvious commitment to safety. Checks and double-checks keep the pharmacists and pharmacy techs busy as they go about their daily duties.

On the day I visited our pharmacy, I got an overview of our chemotherapy program. Obviously, these are some of the most powerful and dangerous drugs we administer and keeping tabs on how our patients are responding to the oncologists’ orders is a top priority. The drugs need to kill the cancer with minimal damage to the rest of the patient. I also got an overview of our competency program as one of our pharmacists demonstrated the procedure to clean and test our chemo drug preparation hood. This is a specially-designed containment area for our pharmacists to prepare the chemo drugs for each individual patient. Keeping our pharmacy and nursing staff safe with their exposure to these chemicals is very important.

I also went along with a pharmacist to visit a patient in the process of being discharged. This patient had an extensive list of medications. The pharmacist spent time reviewing in detail each new medication and their possible side effects. The doctor had also made changes to the patient’s previous medications. The pharmacist explained those changes and answered many questions with a caring attitude. Careful notes and explanations were clearly appreciated by the patient.

Finally, I ended my visit to our pharmacy with an opportunity to be a currier! A Des Moines hospital called while I was visiting the department and asked if we had extra of a very expensive chemo drug. Because of the high cost, hospitals do not keep many of this on hand. As it turned out we did have a few doses left in our inventory. I transported the medication to Des Moines that afternoon since I was headed that way for a meeting. It was great to see the sharing that goes on when a patient needs a medication, even those we only keep in short supply.

There are so many excellent staff members dedicated to the best outcome for the patient. These walkrounds always make me feel proud to be a part of healthcare and GRMC.

Friday, September 24, 2010

An Open Letter to HHS Sect. Kathleen Sibelius

Dear Secretary Sibelius,

I enjoy serving on your National Advisory Committee for Rural Health and Human Services. I was particularly pleased to welcome your committee to Iowa for the first time since Governor Bob Ray was the inaugural chair of the committee when it was established in 1987. It was really special to have Gov. Ray welcome the committee to Iowa at its recent three-day meeting in the Amana Colonies.

This year we are focusing our work around three important topics: childhood obesity, early childhood development, and the implications of healthcare reform on rural America. The Honorable Ronnie Cosgrove is our new chair, the former Governor of Mississippi. He enjoyed a real Iowa treat as he took over the reins of our committee.

We assembled a wonderful group of health and human services experts from around the state to give testimony to the committee on these three topics. We also had some good ol’ fashioned Midwestern fun as we introduced the committee to the seven colonies that make up the Amanas.
Good food, neighborly folk, great entertainment, and some serious topics made for a memorable few days here in Iowa. At this time of year, rural Iowans are preparing for the harvest that will feed and fuel the country and world. We witnessed all that work as we toured the countryside.

As you know, your committee meetings are open to the public and for those interested in the agendas for our meetings, you can find them at the committee website:

It was an eventful week and I look forward to helping to prepare our report to you as the committee seeks to keep those who choose to live and work in rural America well- supported with high-quality health and human services.



Monday, September 13, 2010

The Door is Open

I’m in the midst of another round of quarterly open forum meetings with staff. I figure that I have done about 800 of these meetings in the past 16 years. We schedule around eight meetings over the course of four weeks at a variety of times throughout the day and one at 11 p.m. for those who work overnight.

Topics include financials, physicians, medical staff issues, and what’s on the rumor mill. These forums are always well attended and worth the time. I begin with an overview of the topics and that’s usually plenty of information to begin the discussion. I find the dialogue is helpful for me and for those in the room. A small group setting like that can really foster good conversation.

There are some employees I always know will ask a great question and the others in the room will benefit from their willingness to ask something of me that others may be too intimidated to ask. I’m really upfront that I want people to ask the tough questions. If one person is wondering about a question, it’s likely someone else is wondering about it, too. I want employees to know they can talk to me openly without fear of any reprisal from me or their supervisor.

Over the past two years, this organization has cut expenses by 20 percent. Many cost-cutting ideas and suggestions came out of these open forums with employees. A hospital cannot operate without caring and competent staff. I am happy to say our expense reduction was achieved without a lay off. Through creative problem-solving and finding new ways to provide the same high quality healthcare GRMC is known for, our employees stepped up to the challenge.

I extend this open door invitation to the public as well. If people have issues with us that they want to discuss with me, I welcome that call. You’ve no doubt heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child…” I would apply that to GRMC. It takes a community to make a great hospital like Grinnell Regional Medical Center.

I’d love to hear from you!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Guest Blog: Beat Cancer–Mammograms Are Valuable

The debate over mammography’s value still continues even months after the United States Preventive Services Task Force’s new recommendations. I know that this recommendation and therefore value of mammography has outraged many people in the radiology field.

Most of us see it as taking 10 steps backward. In the early years of mammography, screening was just not done, but so much progress has been made in the early detection of breast cancer! We believe that a decrease of 30 percent mortality rate is largely due to screening mammography.

As the medical world works to eliminate breast cancer, we still need to face the reality. If an abnormality is identified, you want it to be as early as possible. With GRMC radiology technologists as your health partners, you can detect breast cancer early and beat the disease before it’s too late. Our breast imaging partners at Iowa Radiology post their opinions regarding the USPSTF’s recommendations on mammography.

GRMC has an excellent breast health team. Dr. Nicholas Kuiper recently joined Surgical Associates, bringing extensive expertise in breast surgeries – both benign and malignant. He joins the excellent radiologists and breast imaging specialists from Iowa Radiology and oncology specialists already caring for patients at GRMC. We have a breast health team who truly are focused on you.

Seated in Front: Terri Nath, Kathy McNulty
Second Row: Mindi Koehler, Kris Watts, Jean Walston,
Monica Kellogg, William Heggen, MD, Nicholas Kuiper, DO
Third Row: Brooke Uhlmann, Gina Pitman

If our radiologists see a questionable spot on a mammogram, we follow up on the concern. We do this in a quest to make sure it is not a cancer. That’s the point: to make sure it is not cancer. The American Cancer Society continues to support annual mammography screening beginning at age 40. This is a simple noninvasive screening test that helps save lives. Of all the models, the greatest mortality reduction was the annual mammograms starting at age 40.

Someday we may eliminate breast cancer but for now early detection is the best way to beat the disease.

Gina Fuller, RT, (R), (M)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Guest Blog: GRMC’s Women’s Health Focus and Baby Fair Focuses on Setting Boundaries

Join us on Wednesday, Oct. 6, at the Grinnell High School for the annual Women’s Health Focus, beginning at 4:30 p.m.

We women are responsible for so much. Moms and grandmas get the kids to school. We make the appointments with healthcare providers. Laundry. Caring for our aging parents and caring for our grandchildren. Yet, we still have to be “put together” out in the real world—both literally and figuratively.

I have a few solutions. The first: no more nylons. Don’t you feel better already? Just say no. (For those of you who like pantyhose, it’s OK. You can keep them. Just find your own boundaries.)

Second: Get your tickets for the fourth annual GRMC Women’s Health Focus, co-sponsored by GRMC and the Grinnell Regional Auxiliary. If you haven’t been to one, you really must check it out. No matter where you are on your life’s journey, the GRMC Women’s Health Focus offers a little something for everyone. We’ve even expanded this year’s event to include our annual Baby Fair. Both events have always been all about taking care of women, so it made sense to merge them.

This year’s keynote speaker, Colette Carlson, will discuss “The Truth about Balance: How to Stress Less and Laugh More.” She promises to take us on a heartfelt, humorous journey into our own lives and help us bring about the self-awareness that begins long-lasting change.

During her presentation Carlson will share with us how clear boundaries and thoughtful choices lead to greater satisfaction and stronger results, whether we are never-been mothers, expecting mothers, new mothers, been-around-the-block mothers, or grandmothers.

The GRMC Women’s Health Focus and Baby Fair is a relaxed night out with the girls. Scott Gruhn and the catering staff from the Mayflower Community will do all the cooking. This year’s menu includes: Pasta primavera, stuffed chicken breast, steakhouse salad, sweet and sour pork stir fry, fresh vegetable salad, fruit and cheese tray, assorted breads, and a wonderful dessert table.

Childcare is also available at a minimal charge that includes a meal and fun activities for kids. Plenty of educational booths will inform us about healthcare opportunities in area communities. We are also offering some “retail therapy,” with 11 select vendors selling unique merchandise.
And did I mention there’s a lot of free swag for you to take home? Door prizes include massages, fitness center memberships, a Flip camera, and jewelry from Bill’s Jewelry.

But no more nylons. I swear. That is my clear boundary. I’m letting go of what doesn’t work for me. How about you? What doesn’t work for you?

In addition to the Grinnell Regional Auxiliary, other partners who help make this night possible for you are Family Medicine, Grinnell College, Harkin Wellness, Mercy Health Network, Woodard Hearing Center, Grinnell Eye Care, Iowa Radiology, Grinnell Family Care, Maytag Laundry and Tanning, and Windstream Communications.

Tickets are just $18 per person if purchased by Sept. 24. After that date, tickets are $25. For tickets, go to . Everyone who registers online will be entered in a drawing for a $50 gift certificate at The Glass Gift Box. Tickets are also available at The Glass Gift Box.

Scholarships are also available. To find out if you are eligible, please contact Sheryl Baarda at 641-236-2326.

The best thing of all about the Women’s Health Focus and Baby Fair is that the most amazing women show up and have a good time. I hope to see you there.

Denise Lamphier
Director of Communications and Development

Monday, August 23, 2010

Tagged for Success at GRMC

I have 16 yellow, diamond-shaped tags, each representing another successful Tag Day by the Grinnell Regional Auxiliary. I love to support this effort because it is such a long-time tradition for healthcare in our area.

In fact, this annual fundraiser dates back to long before I was even born! Tag Day was initiated in the 1920s as a fundraiser for the hospital - back then it was Community Hospital. It was originally called "Balloon Day" because everyone who contributed received a brightly colored balloon. Downtown businesses were generous donors and decorated their windows with balloons. Hospital archives note that on the day of the annual event, the city was "blooming with balloons."
The Auxiliary replaced the colorful balloons with paper tags during World War II because of the rubber shortage. The bright yellow diamond-shaped tags have continued supporting healthcare in the 21st century. The one-day fundraiser finds more than 100 volunteers selling tags in the GRMC service area. Last year, the Auxiliary raised more than $2,000 in one day.
This year, Auxiliary members will once again welcome donations to its annual Tag Day Fundraiser on Friday, Aug. 27. Look for them in your neighborhood. Please consider supporting their fund drive. Donations go toward the GRMC Auxiliary's 2010 goals:
  • Supporting the development of a physical therapy room at Postels Community Health Park with a $7,000 contribution.
  • Giving $8,000 to the medical center's annual fund drive to be used for hospital equipment.
  • Providing $10,000 in healthcare-related scholarships to area residents.
  • Sponsoring the Women's Health Focus.

I know many residents in our area have more than 16 Tag Day tags. I'd love to hear from you regarding the number of tags you have collected. Thanks for your support of GRMC as we strive to meet the needs of our community.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Proud to Tell Our Story

Recently, I attended the American Hospital Association / Health Forum Leadership Summit. This annual event draws over a thousand healthcare leaders from around the country and Canada to consider what’s new in healthcare delivery. This year, Capt. Sully Sullenberger, the captain of the US Air flight that successfully landed in the Hudson River, Vice-President Al Gore, filmmaker Ken Burns, former White House Press Secretary DeeDee Myers, economist Steven Levitt and U.S.Rep. Newt Gingrich were a few of the keynote speakers. Laura Woodburn and the Health Forum team always pull together a great conference. It was fun to see old friends and interact with some of the brightest leaders in the field. I always learn something and get energized.

This year I had the opportunity to make two presentations. The first one was in a pre-conference workshop entitled, “Sustainability…Reducing Costs-Improving Patient and Employee Satisfaction.” The panel of speakers included CEOs from both urban and rural hospitals, consultants, and policy researchers. I was pleased to share GRMC’s efforts over the past several years to get “green” and save money. For example, last year we added 400 feet of pipe insulation and installed 161 removable valve and boiler blankets in our physical plant. With a total cost of $53,000 and annual savings of $26,000 per year, it was obviously a no-brainer! It was great to hear the enthusiasm from many of the attendees. I do believe if our mission is truly to improve the health of the community, we have an obligation to do our part to when it comes to minimizing our impact on the environment. I am very proud of the Green Team at GRMC and all their accomplishments.

The other presentation was on the final day of the conference and focused on creating an “optimal healing environment.” My co-presenter was Dr. Wayne Jonas, the president of the Samueli Institute. (Learn more about the Institute and OHE here).

Dr. Jonas presented the theory and I provided the “color commentary” with real examples of how we put the evidence-based work of Samueli into practice. My good friend Sita Ananth leads the hospital relationships for Samueli and it was great to have her at the meeting. She has influenced our work greatly in this area. For more than a decade, my optimal healing team at GRMC have made us a national leader in this movement.

It was a great joy to tell our story as a shining example of how our mission comes alive because of the collective work of many committed employees. I am indeed proud of them and only wish they all could have been on hand to hear me brag a bit about their accomplishments and commitment to continuing the journey.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Guest blog: Intern Welcomed to Grinnell

I have spent the last 11 weeks working, living, and especially enjoying Grinnell at GRMC. I spent the summer as an administration intern as part of my graduate program at the University of Iowa receiving a Master of Health Administration. Over this unique summer work experience, I have learned many things in Grinnell.

First, although downtown Grinnell is not as large as Iowa City’s, it does not take away from the exceptional food and entertainment I saw during Friday Fest early this June.

Second, I learned that as a rural community hospital, GRMC faces many challenges most hospitals do not. As a “tweener” hospital, something Todd Linden has mentioned in previous blogs, GRMC is in a very unique position with its size and reimbursement rates.

Last, I learned a strong hospital makes for a strong community, but more importantly, a strong community creates a strong hospital. The community members I met on the board of directors are passionate, engaged, and truly believe in the mission and values of GRMC. With the invaluable involvement and support of the community, GRMC has weathered the economic storm, recruited four new members of the medical staff, and convinced Capital Hill that a town of 10,000 deserves as much recognition (through the “tweener” legislation) as any other.

Between my family in Des Moines, and school in Iowa City, I will drive by exit 182 on interstate 80 with memories of a great summer filled with new friends, new experiences, and the new appreciation of how hospitals and the community truly depend on each other to become great.

To everyone I had the pleasure to meet and work with, thanks, and take care, until we meet again.

Kyle Wilcox
Administrative Intern 2010

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Camp Nurse? Who? Me?

This week’s blog is written by Sheryl Baarda, the nurse manager of our OB department. This story resonates with me as I spent many years as a camper and counselor for a church camp in Northwest Iowa. Sheryl tells a wonderful story of her time as a nurse for a camp for kids with a real need for such an experience. Just one more example of the amazing professionals I am honored to work with every day.

Camp Nurse? Who? Me?
That’s what I was thinking the first time I headed out to become a camp nurse for an Angel Tree camp. This camp is for children who have some big challenges in their young lives. These children have a parent in some kind of correctional facility or halfway house situation.

I am a person who attends church each Sunday, sits in the pew, listens to the sermon, and then goes on my merry way. Oh, sure, in the past I have been a Sunday School teacher, a family night teacher, and taken a few photos for the church. But as my career as a nurse leader began to change, so did my working hours. I always had the excuse that I had to work nights, weekends, and holidays, so I didn’t have time for those church activities.

For the past year or so, I had been having the feeling that I needed to do more to give back to the world. About that time, I read an article in one of my nursing journals about mission work. It stated if you aren’t quite ready to make a big leap, start small. Look for something around home. The next Sunday, a flyer for an Angel Tree Camp located near my home was in the bulletin. It was like God was saying, “Okay, Sheryl, you can’t get much closer to home than this.” I sent them an e-mail and the rest fell into place.

My job as a camp nurse includes lots of duties. I help check kids in, take stock of those kids on medications, and set up the meds for the week. Throughout the week, I dispense medications and care for bumps, bruises, headaches, tummy aches, rashes, and more. This year, it seemed like I was extremely busy, handing out band-aids right and left. I have found that a lot of the aches are more a cry for attention than anything else. The campers are more in need of a hug and some love.

Some of these kids have behavioral issues. They don’t know how to deal with their emotions, including their anger. When you begin to hear some of the stories of their home life you can understand why. Some undergo emotional and physical abuse. One little boy in particular had a smile that melts your heart. He also has a terrifying scowl. When I learned he had suffered abuse (having his mouth taped shut with duct tape, for example.) I began to understand some of the emotions he was displaying.

I’ve been doing this job for a few years and I am always amazed at the counselors and how they deal with these kids. They show them unconditional love. Most of the counselors are college and high school students. They take on a tough job. They are with these kids 24 hours a day for a solid week. It is wonderful to see the bond that takes place. Some of these kids don’t get attention, love, or hugs at home. The counselors are constantly holding hands, carrying the small ones, and giving piggy-back rides to one camper or another.

These kids LOVE to sing! They radiate joy. They also love to listen to and act out Bible stories. It is awesome to see 45 kids sitting quietly, mesmerized by the story. It is so quiet you can hear a pin drop.

I hate the last day of camp. It is sad because the week has flown by so quickly. I also hate it because some of the kids don’t want to leave and go back to their home life. They cry and cling. It is heartbreaking. I just want to fix it for them, and I know I can’t. It brings tears to my eyes each time I think about it. When I arrived home after my first camp experience, my husband Craig asked how it went. It was at least 15 minutes before I could even answer him for all the emotions I was experiencing. The first words out of my mouth were, “Our grandkids are so blessed.” They don’t know how wonderful and easy their lives are compared to other kids. Angel Tree Camp provides these kids with a week of love, joy, fun, and adventure. It is a great mission in my own backyard. I highly recommend that everyone find a mission to support and spend time with. It can be hard work, but the rewards are amazing.

Sheryl Baarda, RN, nurse manager, Kintzinger Women’s Health Center

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Buck Starts with You

The “Buck Starts Here” for Poweshiek County public health funding. That really means the first step in distributing public dollars for health care is assessing the needs of county residents.

In the healthcare world, we make assessments on a regular basis to gather valuable information from key players who have a stake. So, when it comes to prioritizing healthcare barriers and issues in Poweshiek County, who better to ask than county residents?

Feedback from local residents helps focus our county’s energies and resources on healthcare issues that apply to our residents. This feedback is gathered through a Community Health Needs Assessment. The survey is part of a mandate by the Iowa Department of Public Health for all counties to complete an assessment every five years. The IDPH understands the notion that health issues are owned by the community, not the government or a special sector of the community. Hence, the IDPH asks all counties to complete an assessment of their county, identify the health issues, and develop a health improvement plan customized to their residents. In Poweshiek County, the board of health works with Grinnell Regional Public Health to gather feedback needed to take on issues that we face locally

Those of you who read my column are passionate about healthcare. We invite you (if you live in Poweshiek County) to participate in the Grinnell Regional Public Health assessment survey. Take the survey and voice your opinions about health in the county.

We all have a say in making changes. And when residents voice their concerns, they take ownership in the issue and solutions. Take a stand on where the local healthcare dollars are directed.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A True “Internet Baby”

My generation grew up with TV. We were often referred to as “cathode tube babies.” My kids grew up with computers. We might call them “micro chip babies.”

This past weekend, a baby was born at GRMC while his father was deployed thousands of miles away serving this great nation in the military. For generations, babies have been born while fathers have fought wars half a world away. News about the new baby came through letters or telegrams. This weekend Grinnell Regional used Skype for the first time to bring the father right into the birthing room to witness in real time the birth of his first son and support his wife through the labor and delivery. Sometimes we bemoan technology’s takeover of the world. In this case, technology was truly miraculous as the miracle of birth unfolded.

Certainly, cameras, phones, and digital recording devices have been a mainstay in delivery rooms for years now. In this case, the first idea was to video record the birth and send the recording to the Middle East so Dad could see the birth of little Gabriel. Then mom mentioned that she and her husband had been using Skype as a communication tool during the final two months of the pregnancy and the idea popped up to use the computer to link the family together for the birth. Thanks goodness for the wireless router we installed last year. It was amazing!

When Des Moines television station KCCI heard about the story, they sent a crew to Grinnell to check it out. The story can be found on their web site at the following link: I posted the link yesterday quickly. It was a feel good, human interest story of the best kind.

I may have been a TV baby. Little Gabriel is truly an “internet baby!” Congratulations to Mom and Dad on the birth of their son. And thanks to all the folks—the doctor, nurses and in this case, the information technology team at GRMC—for going the extra mile to make sure this Dad was “virtually” in the room to see the first few breaths of his son!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Story from the Heart

Click here to watch a heartfelt story that has all of life's important elements. Hope you enjoy watching this touching story.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Gift

The movie Pay it Forward has many wonderful messages about embracing life and giving to those you love—and even those you do not know. When individuals complete an advance directive or living will, you are in fact giving a gift to those you love. You are providing direction on how you want healthcare decisions to be made even when you cannot articulate those decisions.

In general, families can rarely weigh potential outcomes and make decisions from the same perspective as in the time of crisis and stress. We all judge differently what quality of life means. The time to discuss wishes for healthcare is when it can be discussed from a broader view. You can provide a wonderful gift to your family members should they face having to make difficult health decisions for you. You pay it forward when you have an advance directive, durable power of attorney for healthcare decisions, and living wills in place.

Though many of us do not want to think about being unconscious and unable to make decisions, these documents can be critical when facing that crisis. We never know when that may be.

The time to discuss these concerns is long before the crisis that calls families together outside of emergency departments or ICUs, a time when emotions are high and logical decisions seem to be difficult to determine. It truly is easier when you are planning toward a future event, not when that event is thrust upon you.

When you complete these legal documents, the hospital can retain a copy of your wishes in your medical record so it is available in an emergency – another way to remove some stresses in a crisis.

GRMC will host a program called, “Put Your Wishes in Writing,” that will address advance directives, living wills, and durable power of attorney for healthcare decisions. It will be Tuesday, July 27, at 7 p.m. in the Tomasek Conference Center. Call 641-236-2418 to reserve a seat. Even though the program is free, it is very valuable to those you love.

We hope you will never need to use these documents but should the crisis arise, you are better prepared. I have my advanced directives and I urge each of you to consider getting your wishes in writing. It is easy to do and will help if the time ever comes when you are not in a position to speak for yourself.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Postels Community Health Park Celebrates a Decade

Wow! For 10 years now, Postels Community Health Park has been helping to meet the needs of the East Central Iowa. At every major advancement of GRMC, you can see philanthropy at work. Postels Community Health Park is no exception.

About 11 years ago, the Postels and Heimsoth families donated their building in the center of Grinnell to the hospital. The large building has an interesting history. Prior to its life as a health park, the Postels and Heimsoths used it to operate their very successful Budweiser distributing company. The facility began life at the turn of the century (the last century that is) as a hotel across the street from Central Park and a block away from the train depot. The two-story building really has been an important fixture in Grinnell’s history.

Today, 10 years after the Postels and Heimsoths turned this special building over to GRMC, the health park is a centerpiece of our outreach program. The three fundamental functions at the facility are: a hemodialysis center (provided by the University of Iowa), the Galaxy Youth Center, and GRMC’s integrated health center.

The dialysis center has been vitally important to meeting the needs of our diabetic patients closer to home. The Galaxy continues to grow and maintain a place for our youth to enjoy structured social and learning time. The integrated health center offers our community access to state-of-the-art massage therapy, acupuncture, physical therapy, chiropractic, and other holistic therapies.

GRMC has been a recognized leader in integrated health. We offer other community hospitals a model for blending the best in modern and complementary therapies for optimal healing.

We owe many thanks to the Postels and Heimsoth families for their generosity and kindness in the donation of their building so we could expand our mission in such an innovative and necessary way. I can only imagine what the next 10 years will bring as we continue to find creative ways to use this building for health improvement!

Best Shot for Better Care

Last week, GRMC held its 21st annual golf outing at the Grinnell Golf and Country Club.

In 1989, Chris (our PR and development director at the time) generated the plan to hold our first “friendraiser” on the links. The idea, of course, was to find an excuse to play some golf and raise some money for GRMC’s mission while enjoying the friendships that often occur on the green. It was a huge success. All these years later, it is still going strong.

I have had the privilege to play in 16 of the outings. In all those years, we have amazingly only experienced one rain delay and never a rain out! This past Friday, Mother Nature blessed us with a gorgeous June day in Iowa. It was a fabulous tournament.

For the past nine years, Leslie has coordinated our annual event. Once again, with the help of GRMC’s development staff and PR team, she pulled off another flawless outing. Leslie is moving on to other things, so this was her last golf outing with us. I want to thank her for all her efforts over the years! This year in addition to having a great event, we raised more than $12,000 for the medical center. This would not be possible without the support of both participants and sponsors. For the 2010 event, our lead sponsors were Bernie Lowe and Associates, Grinnell State Bank, JELD-WEN and Windstream (Iowatelecom). I sure appreciate their continued support of this event and, more importantly, our mission of service to the community.

This year we played a four person best shot, with two teams on each hole. It is quite the spectacle to see eight players tee off on each hole and make their way to the best shot for each team. Although my team did not win (or for that matter even place in the top half), we had a lot of fun! My son, Grant, played with me this year. It was great having him join in on the fun. At my first GRMC golf outing, he was a toddling 1-year-old. Now he is taller than me and out-driving me by 20 yards!

Grant takes his turn at teeing off.

GRMC’s donors come in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes they create a bequest or reply to our annual fund drive solicitation. Other times they make a planned gift or memorial to mark the significance of a special person. Big or small, each gift to GRMC makes a difference in the lives of those we serve.

While the GRMC golf outing is a fundraiser, I think Chris had it right 21 years ago when he tagged it a “friendraiser.” At its core, this particular event brings friends and neighbors together in the name of curing and healing. Whether it’s “closest to the bed pan” or putting with lead lined radiology gloves, we have lots of fun and support our patients on every hole. FORE!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Line Up the Inspectors

Inspections are a way of life for hospital administrators. Truly, administrators see a line of inspectors coming through our institutions on a continual basis. From food inspectors to elevator inspectors, and fire marshal’s to lab inspectors, you name it and we probably have an inspector waiting their turn for a chance to take a thorough look into our policies, procedures, and practices.

At GRMC, the “queen” of inspections is Suzanne. Of course, she gets plenty of help throughout our hospital, but you can be sure she is in charge when it comes to inspections. I am so grateful for her care and dedication to this responsibility because she is the best. I never worry about GRMC not being prepared for any and all inspections. She is knowledgeable, diligent, and thorough.

Case in point, last week I sat in on the exit conference from the state “nuclear” inspector. No, we don’t get our power from a little nuclear reactor in our boiler plant, but rather we have a license for our nuclear medicine program and we are inspected every four years. Nuclear medicine involves the use of very small amounts of nuclear tracers or isotopes, injected into the patient and then visualized using a special gamma camera. The inspector had truly glowing things to say about our program. Now in this case, the imaging director Gina and the nuclear medicine technologist Jake take a lead role with Suzanne’s support in managing our program.

Nuclear medicine technologist Jake Crawford carefully monitors a patient.

This is Jake’s passion. The inspector said with a smile several times, there are “no violations” and added with emphasis how proud we should be of Jake and his attention to every detail with this program. Well, Jake is indeed just another example of the hundreds of GRMC team members who take their jobs seriously and excel for the benefit of our patients. I am proud of Jake, Gina, and Suzanne for a job very well done. Although I don’t know which inspector will come through our doors next, I am confident we are ready to show off the talents and skills of our team. Because when it comes to being prepared every day for meeting the needs of the people who depend on us, we care deeply; and it shows when the many inspectors do their job of making sure we’re doing it by the book!

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

On Electrical Wires and Being Wired

Stop and consider for a moment the diversity of jobs we have in a hospital. Every single job is needed to provide excellent healthcare and a quality experience for each patient.
At GRMC we have about 420 team members and more than 160 different job descriptions…and I am not exaggerating! It takes a lot of people doing a lot of different things to make a hospital operate.

I go on a “workround” with employees as frequently as I can. This entails job shadowing a different employee or whole department of employees learning how they do their work.
Recently, I spent some time with Chris, an electrician in our facilities management department. Together, we rewired the electrical service box in one of the houses we own and use as a short-term rooming house for on call staff, students and/or new associates working to find a new home or apartment. We added the ability to use a generator in the case of a power outage because we use this house during winter storms for staff members stranded or sleeping between shifts.

Chris taught me a couple of useful tips, including turning the wire stripper to a 45 degree angle for an easier wire strip!

Then I was off to the information systems department where our computer geeks hang out. I spent a few hours following around four of the five team members in the nerve center of the hospital. They manage our cell phones, pagers, land-line phone switch, and of course, our computer system that includes hundreds of personal computers. I helped run reports, loaded more RAM into several computers, and replaced some backup tapes. I also got a quick lesson in our new “virtual” servers. I have some sense of computers and IS technology. 2 b sure, I cn txt w my kids & understand most of it. But don’t ask me how a virtual server works other than it’s faster and less expensive! Heidi, Mark, Ruth, and Linda, all gave me an overview of what’s new. I didn’t get to a chance to hang with Matt that day so I will need to pop back in and see what he’s up to. We are immersed in “meaningful use” and preparing for implementing an electronic health record in the next 12-24 months. It’s going to be a very busy time!

Hospitals are indeed made up of a diverse group of people doing all kinds of things all in the name of creating a healing environment for the people who depend on us. I am blessed to work with so many talented and dedicated people.

Ever Tried Yoga?

Yoga became another new exercise experience for me recently. First, I tried Zumba. So, the only logical next thing to try was yoga.

Although the two words start with letters next to each other in the alphabet, they couldn’t be further apart on the exercise scale. Zumba pairs up great Latin music with jazzed up dance moves for a great cardio workout. Yoga on the other hand, I found to be contemplative, almost spiritual. In my case, I tried a “Gentle Yoga” class. For me, it turned out to be the best way to first experience yoga.

Since flexibility is not one of my strengths to be sure, I found “Gentle Yoga” did not include any difficult balance and stretching moves that I couldn’t handle. However, I don’t want to suggest my one-hour yoga session did not make for an excellent workout. Working the core and using one’s muscles to maintain balance certainly created plenty of burn. It also seemed more meditative. I left feeling refreshed.

We currently have three yoga instructors: two Jennifers and a Jackie. Borrowing a technique from Dr. Seuss, I will refer to the Jennifers as Jenn One and Jen Two. Jenn One taught my first class. I am glad I was able to take a class from Jenn One because she is leaving us after almost a half-dozen years of wonderful care and devotion in building our yoga program. You can tell yoga is her passion. We truly are blessed with so many awesome fitness instructors at the Fly High Fitness Studio. It was clear from the many comments from her faithful students that Jenn One will be missed. Of course, we wish her all the best with her move.

Jen Two (exercising right next to me) will jump in and add Jenn One’s classes to her schedule. I am looking forward to taking a class from Jen Two. Probably a couple more “Gentle Yoga” classes for me before I try one of the more advanced classes.

If you have not tried a yoga class, I highly recommend it for both your mind and body. There’s one other great thing about yoga I want to share with you. I had no trouble putting my gym pants on the right way. I neglected to mention in my Zumba blog how embarrassed I was when I came out of the changing room with my Zumba pants on backwards!

Friday, May 28, 2010

What the Heck is Zumba?

The newest fitness craze is an “aerobics” like class called Zumba, fired up with Latin music! And we have it at GRMC at Fly High Fitness Studio. I decided to check it out. You can see the results on this short video here. But I better warn you, I am not much of a dancer!

Although you can be the judge, I did start to get the hang of it as the class progressed. Much like the insecure guys in the movie “The Full Monty,” my confidence improved as I started to loosen up and enjoy the music. Of course, unlike those guys in “The Full Monty,” I kept my clothes on. In fact, I even borrowed a pair of special Zumba pants from the class instructor, Tiffany, just to get the total experience. Speaking of Tiffany, she is a great instructor. I appreciate her letting me crash her class so I could see firsthand what fun a fitness class can be.

You will also note in the photo and video clip a rather large, bearded man next to me. (And yes, Dr. Levy, he still has his beard!) That is Kyle, my University of Iowa College of Public Health graduate student intern for the summer. You might recall seeing him in my Washington, DC, post from a few weeks ago! What a good sport to join me in checking out Zumba.

Tiffany asked me on my way out the door after class: “Am I going to see you now each week for a dance lesson?” Although I did not commit on the spot, I do see why folks love Zumba. It is a 45-minute workout that goes by very quickly, and I have to admit it was a lot of fun. I don’t suspect the video of me dancing is going to be the next YouTube craze, but if we could get those babies selling stock services in those cute commercials to try Zumba, we might just have something! I also suspect I am going to get some ribbing and a lot of snickering from many of my colleagues at GRMC.

Join the party!

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Honoring a Special Nurse…

Last year, Grinnell Regional Medical Center lost a wonderful person who was a gifted nurse and a great human being. She died of breast cancer at a young age. Linda served as an RN at GRMC from 1993 to 2008. She not only touched many patients’ lives, but all who knew her. She was a role model and mentor for many nurses beginning their careers.

Linda was honored by her fellow GRMC nurses and friends recently as they came together to plant a Rose of Sharon bush in her memory in the hospital’s healing garden. A stone with her name engraved lift up Linda to all who visit the healing garden. She enjoyed gardening and tended a Rose of Sharon in her own yard.

Nurses shared many stories of Linda that reminded us how much she is missed. It also gave us a chance to thank each other. This was a wonderful moment during National Nurses’ Week, a time when we honor nurses for the tireless and caring work they do to bring healing and comfort to thousands of Americans every day. We are fortunate to have so many skilled and compassionate nurses and nurses’ aides at GRMC.

Linda loved being a nurse and she loved life. We miss her and now have a special place in our garden to remember her wit, smile, talents, and friendship. She continues to be an inspiration to us all.

The photo below shows an excellent nursing team we are proud to work with.

Doris Rindels, Assistant Vice President
and Todd Linden

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Must See Movie

The first two weeks of May are set aside to highlight National Nurses Week and National Hospital Week. This year is especially important as 2010 is the International Year of the Nurse. As I have shared before, HeartMath plays a vital role in my life and in the culture of our organization. HeartMath created a special video to honor nurses and care givers everywhere. I am proud of the care that the nurses at GRMC provide to our patients. The authenticity of their care inspires all of us to live more from our hearts and share more care in our lives. This is a beautiful three-minute experience that we hope you will watch to appreciate the true care that healthcare staff bring to their jobs everyday.

Click here to view the video.

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Friday, May 14, 2010

National Hospital Week – A time to celebrate!

Each year hospitals across America take time to celebrate our missions of caring for the communities we serve and GRMC is no exception. Our Celebration Council takes great pride in planning a week-long festival to commemorate the passion and pride we all take in meeting the healthcare needs of those we are privileged to serve. Yes, that’s right; we have a committee of employees who do nothing but think about reasons to have a party! This year the Celebration Council organized a book fair on Monday; raffle drawing on Tuesday and chair massages and other treatments from our integrated health therapists (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday); the Annual Parish Breakfast on Wednesday; jean day on Thursday and a jewelry fair on Friday!

Todd Linden serves pancakes during the Annual Parish Breakfast.

It is great to stop and take a moment to reflect on the privilege we have of caring for people at some of life’s most important moments. For some it is the excitement of the birth of a child and for others it is the care and compassion at the end of life. It can be the amazing technology and skills of modern medicine that cures disease or the subtle healing nature of integrative health therapies that makes the difference for someone. Each and every person at GRMC makes a difference in the lives of our patients and their families. We couldn’t do it without the hundreds of volunteers that help to lead our boards and committees, staff the gift shop and deliver the flowers, or donate resources to our cause. Our medical staff is second to none and it is their dedication to excellence that sets us apart.

During this national celebration, I want to take this opportunity to say a sincere thank you to all the people who make GRMC the special place it is. Happy National Hospital Week!

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Grinnell College…One of America’s Great Liberal Arts Colleges

For the better part of the past decade, I have had the privilege of serving on the Grinnell College board of trustees. What a fabulous experience! Grinnell College is the rock of our community. GRMC has certainly benefited over the years—both tangibly and intangibly—through relationships with the college.

In early May, the college board held its spring meeting on campus. A special highlight of this meeting was the celebration known as Selah. Orchestrated by the college’s past board chair, Nord Brue, Selah offered a time to pause and take stock of the excellence that Grinnell College has been, currently enjoys, and will be in the future.

We especially enjoyed celebrating the “fourth” rebuilding of the college with outgoing President Russell Osgood. During the 12 years with Russell at the helm, the college has constructed many new buildings. As vice-chair of the buildings and grounds committee, I have enjoyed watching it unfold. A fine arts center, four new dorms, a major addition to the science building, a new campus center, and an athletic and fitness complex, along with several major renovations have all been accomplished in a fiscally prudent manner. We have also witnessed growth in the college’s academic and financial strength. This is a tribute to not just Russell, but also to the faculty, staff, board members, and students.

As Russell departs to teach around the world and return to the Osgood home in New England, we welcome the 13th Grinnell College president. Dr. Raynard Kington is the current deputy director of the National Institutes of Health. He holds a medical degree from the University of Michigan and an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. from the Wharton School of Business. We are excited about Dr. Kington and his family coming to Grinnell this summer to start his tenure at Grinnell. The GRMC medical community is looking forward to the opportunity to interact with Dr. Kington and his partner, Peter Daniolos, M.D. Dr. Daniolos is a child psychiatrist currently practicing at Children’s National Medical Center. He is also on the faculty at George Washington University.

I’d also like to share an interesting side note from the meeting. I am one of a few trustees on the board who is not an alum. At the student forum, we heard five outstanding presentations from student groups. The Scarlet and Black (the student newspaper), snapped a photo of me with several students after the presentations. The photo appeared on the front page of the newspaper with the caption “trustee Todd Linden ’85.” Although I received my undergraduate degree in 1985, it was from the University of Iowa. I have found myself hoping that my name will be called with the rest of the Grinnell College graduates this year. But I will not hold my breath. The S&B does not have that kind of authority!

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Message of Appreciation and Hope to Our Nation’s Capitol

US Capitol on a bright blue spring day in Washington, D.C.

This was no ordinary trip to Washington, D.C. On many of my previous trips to the nation’s capital, my message was one of deep concern. I pleaded for a change in the way middle-sized rural hospitals like Grinnell Regional Medical Center receive reimbursement under the Medicare system.

This month’s trip to the Beltway found me with a skip in my step and a message of THANKS. We finally prevailed in getting the “tweener” issue addressed as part of this year’s historic and massive healthcare reform bill. For a description of the “tweener” issue, please see these past blogs.

Deep in the belly of the legislation lays a tweak of the Medicare reimbursement formula. The change will result in much needed relief from the unfair payment scheme we have experienced for many years. Beginning in 2011, GRMC should see about $750,000 in improved payment from the federal government for caring for our Medicare patients. That is truly welcomed news because we were paid $2.5 million below our costs for this care in 2009! This benefit will not only help GRMC. It will also help hundreds of other 25- to 50-bed hospitals across rural America.

Todd Reding, chair of GRMC’s Foundation Board Chair and a member of our Board of Directors, and Kyle Wilcox, a University of Iowa graduate student in health management and policy, joined me on the trip to the Hill. Our primary focus was to say thank you to both of Iowa’s Senators and to two of GRMC’s Congressmen.

Even though Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) did not vote in favor of the bill, we took the time to thank him. The reality is, the “tweener” payment improvement plan started in the Senate Finance Committee where he is ranking member. Michael Park, Grassley’s staffer for the committee focused on Medicare, was extremely helpful on this issue early in the process.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) championed this cause, too. In his important role as chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee, he had a lot to say about healthcare reform. His staffer, Jenelle Krisnamoorthy, fought the good fight during difficult negotiations with delegations from larger states not interested in sharing scarce resources.

Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA) and his healthcare assistant, Katy Siddall, worked hard on the House side to make sure the Senate bill’s tweener language was not changed during reconciliation. Rep. Boswell also helped orchestrate a meeting with both our senators in 2008 to brainstorm ways to get “tweener” legislation moved ahead given their leadership roles in the U.S. Senate.

Todd Linden and Todd Reding presenting board
resolution of thanks and photo to Congressman Boswell

We also thanked our “adopted” representative, Bruce Braley (D-IA). The Congressman was born at GRMC, and his mother lives in nearby Brooklyn. Rep. Braley and his staffer, Mike Goodman, described to us their 2:30 a.m. victory in the Speaker’s office the day of the historic vote on healthcare reform. The victory? The start toward “value based purchasing” and the government recognizing the geographic variation in payment needs to be addressed in the Medicare system! Rep. Braley helped get $800 million dollars added to the reform package during reconciliation to prop up payment around the nation to the lowest reimbursed physicians and hospitals providing high quality care!

Todd Reding presented each of these leaders with a special resolution from the GRMC board expressing our appreciation for their efforts to bring a little equity into the Medicare payment system. Their efforts make it possible for us to continue to provide the care people deserve in Grinnell and other middle sized rural hospitals in Iowa and around the country. Todd also gave each of them a photograph taken after one of our Senior Education Center meetings. The picture includes many folks who helped communicate the need for change with our delegation over the years. This group of seniors is emblematic of the very people this legislation will help. (See photo and board resolution)

Of course, the fight is not over yet. A great deal of uncertainty exists in the overall healthcare reform bill. Potential potholes could detract from our future abilities to deliver the care people need. Yet, it was great to take time to pause, reflect, and give thanks for an epic battle to create some equity in the payment flaw that has plagued us over the past half dozen years.

Todd Reding with Jenelle Kristnamoorthy with Healthcare
Reform Bill which contains fixes for the “tweener” payment issue

Incidentally, it was Kyle’s first trip to Washington, D.C. What a great education for a young man just starting his career in healthcare leadership. In addition to meeting all of our Congressional delegation and their health staff members, he also heard some great presentations from the American Hospital Association, visited a few monuments and museums, peeked at the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, and ate some great food. (For those concerned about costs, I should note that I paid for Kyle’s trip and split costs for my trip with the hospital, the American Hospital Association, and myself.) I also have to admit I felt just a bit safer wandering around Washington with Kyle by my side—this high school and college football standout still has some size on him!

Intern Kyle Wilcox extracting funds from the “US Senate Money Machine”

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Bluestones Touch Our Hearts

This past week, Rebecca and Robert Bluestone touched a chord deep within my soul. Rebecca is an unbelievably talented silk weaver. Robert is an amazing classical guitar player. Rebecca is also an ovarian cancer survivor and cared for her mother during the last six months of her life after a breast cancer diagnosis. Robert was Rebecca’s caregiver during her life-saving treatment.

Their “Woven Harmony” project originated from a unique collaboration at the University of Iowa with Hancher Auditorium, the College of Public Health, and the Holden Cancer Center. A journey across Iowa, “Woven Harmony” included stops in Spencer, Algona, Des Moines, Grinnell, and Davenport. Over the past several weeks, Rebecca and Robert spent three days in each of these communities conducting workshops and performances. Using their “stringed instruments” of loom and guitar, they delighted audiences and inspired healthcare workers with the beauty of their art.

In Grinnell, they started at GRMC with two workshops attended by more than a hundred staff members. Of course, staff met their message of art and healing with enthusiasm and a kindred spirit. Art has been a part of GRMC’s optimal healing environment for many years. The Bluestones offered yet another example of how soulful music and exquisite visual art can enhance modern medicine.

Rebecca and Robert also provided workshops at the Grinnell Newburg High School and Grinnell College. More than 200 students experienced Rebecca and Robert’s artistry. During these presentations, the couple shared how the arts can add to the creative spirit that dwells within us all. The duo capped off their three days in Grinnell with an inspirational performance entitled “Celebrating Community” at the Voertman Theater. It was a special treat for me to have my son, Grant, (also a gifted guitarist) and my parents, Judith and Chuck, attend the performance with me. My mother is also a cancer survivor. With Mother’s Day coming up, it was extra special to enjoy the message and beauty of the Bluestones together.

Everyone who experienced Robert and Rebecca’s talent and compassion were inspired to care a little deeper, think a little clearer, and live a little richer. I look forward to future collaboration with this extraordinary couple on their mission to change the world. Thank you, Bluestones for touching my heart.

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.